Bible Teaching aimed at helping you enjoy the Scriptures which are the Word of GOD!


Bible Study Broadcast Info

Preaching by: John J. Malone, Sr - JABSBG*

XML Sitemap

Facts of the Crucifixion: More than Three Crosses. - Comments (5)

Printer Friendly Category: Articles
Author: John Malone
Date: 25th December, 2014 @ 11:14:48 PM

sunset - 3 crosses FiveCrossesGraphic

Lately I have been seeing a lot of traditional pictures of three crosses in a row at sunset, the middle one elevated.

Pictures almost invariably mislead Christian believers, and the one with three crosses presumably at Mount Calvary just do not reconcile with Bible accounts.

You might think most people would say, “What difference does it make?” In fact, however, that is not my experience. When I suggest to folks that, according to the Bible account, there seems to need to be at least five crosses, they challenge me to explain with facts, and then – not surprisingly – completely reject the argument.

That’s what happened to me when I wrote a lengthy explanation of Facebook, and subsequently got kicked out of the forum for writing it, losing all my writing. That is one of the cruel aspects of FaceBook, so, by request, I am rewriting it here in this account, where angry readers cannot delete it.

I find, for this discussion, that a good place to start is in John’s gospel, where we are arrested by the dramatic action recorded in:

John 19:31-37
31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true:and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

While it is not the main point of this passage (the piercing of he Lord’s side a necessary element of Christ’s second coming, among other truths), we can see that the Roman soldiers broke the legs of one, then another, and then CAME TO JESUS. Immediately, one would think they were walking down a row, and not skipping past Jesus, and then coming back to Him, which, if there were only three crosses, they would have to do, He being in the middle.

So, let’s look at the other accounts, and see how this “lines up.” We have references in the synoptic gospels to those crucified with him, being described as thieves, and malefactors, at least to each. If these are only two each, and if it turns out that the thief is the malefactor, then and only then do we come to three crosses. Otherwise, we will come to more, and John 19:32-33 will also make better sense to us.

Matthew’s Account.

{Matthew 27:26-54|Mat 27:26-54} encompasses that gospel’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion from the time Barabbas is released in His stead, to the time of His death and the events that immediately followed causing a centurion to believe that He is the Son of God. My subject here, however, does not call for the exegesis of the whole passage, instead drawing attention to:

The Crucifixion and Location of the Thieves.

Matt 27:38“Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.” THEN means after He refused the vinegar and gall, after He was placed on the cross, after they parted His garments, and after they placed the signification “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” accusation above His head. It was THEN that two THIEVES were crucified on either side of him. Right-hand side, left-hand side.

The Behavior of the Thieves.

As passers-by took up the mockeries of their religious leaders, hurling scornful and hostile epithets, engaging in the mockery and disgrace intended upon Him by His enemies, we read verse 44:

44 “The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.”

So, it is the thieves – both of them (1+1) – who hurled insults at Him. Did one of these change his mind on his cross, and articulate the more salutary opinion of Him, thereby becoming the all-so-remembered “thief on the cross?”

Mark’s Account.

The portion of the gospel of Mark covering this same action as Matthew 27 adds some precision to our already elucidated facts. The {passage is Mark  15:20-39: Mar 15:20-39}.

We see the time frame covered is the 3rd hour to the 6th hour, followed by three hours of darkness until the ninth hour. Those six hours thereby cover the time from 9.a.m. to 3 p.m. Israel time. Before the sixth hour, as the last recorded event, is the crucifixion of the thieves:

27 “And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.”

We then learn, as they hang from no earlier than some time after 9 am., and no later than noon, passers-by threw their epithets, and, just as Matthew records:

32 “… And they that were crucified with him reviled him.”

Luke’s Account.

{Luke’s account|Lu 23:32-45} gives us our information about the MALEFACTORS, and the resins why we know they are not the same as the thieves. First off, a thief is a malefactor, but a malefactor is not necessarily a thief. A generally malevolent person – a malefactor – can be other than a thief. He can be a brigand, or one who assaults, or any number of things that are not thievery, but are seriously wicked.

Here’s our introduction to them:

Luke 23:32“And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.”

The Crucifixion of the Malefactors.

These appear to us sooner in the dramatic action than the thieves. Sure, they COULD still be the same, but one must notice this difference. A different name – malefactor – and a different entrance into the account. They are being led to Golgotha with him. There’s more.

33: “And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.”

They are also left and right. But pairs of crosses could be added left and right ad infinitum, and this language would stay the same. This is not proof of our case that there at least five crosses at Calvary, but neither does this language say otherwise.

It is further down in the account that His accusation of being King of the Jews is referenced:

38: “And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, this is the King of the Jews.”

After that superscription was hung, the thieves were crucified, left and right. An outer pair to the malefactor inner-pair.

Some may say, “You are assuming Luke is a consecutive account.” I am. It is {Luke’s gospel itself|Lu 1:1-4}that demands that we understand we are always reading consecutively. The Bible is written to inform us, not to mislead us.

And, this account now makes overall sense to us.

The Behavior of the Malefactors.

39: “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds:but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

I’m tempted to correct much error instead of my subject here, especially as to what the Lord actually said to this MALEFACTOR, but my central point is that this interaction is with the “malefactor on the cross, not the thief.” This colloquy among the three who were crucified at the same time may have been in the hearing of the thieves, may not have been, but was with someone that was not them.

So, if we were to picture Calvary (Golgotha) from afar at that time, we should see at least five crosses. Most of the pictures you see – especially those of the Lord Himself – are wrong.

Faith is not sight, faith is in God’s Word, and from God’s Word. And grace is through faith.